Argentina: Mapuche to block Chevron from territory

In a press conference on July 11 representatives of Argentina’s indigenous Mapuche and of indigenous communities in the Vaca Muerta region in the southwestern province of Neuquén announced plans to block the California-based Chevron Corporation from drilling for natural gas in their territories. In December 2012 Argentina’s state-controlled Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF) oil company signed an agreement for a $1 billion hydrofracking pilot project in the Vaca Muerta area, despite a November decision by an Argentine judge to embargo Chevron’s assets in Argentina because of a $19 billion judgment against the company in Ecuador for environmental damage and injuries to the health of indigenous residents in the Amazon rainforest. YPF and Chevron are scheduled to sign an additional accord on July 15; the oil companies deny that the drilling will be on Mapuche lands.

The Argentine indigenous groups “agreed with the peoples harmed by Chevron in Ecuador–the Cofán, Siona, Sarayaku—that we can’t allow Chevron to enter Mapuche territory,” Mapuche Confederation member Jorge Nahuel said at the press conference. The indigenous groups will challenge the agreement on the grounds that they should have been consulted previously under Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO). “The state is obligated to consult us; if it doesn’t, it’s violating the law,” Nahuel said. The lonko (local leader) Albino Campos, who lives in Campo Maripe in the center of Vaca Muerta, told the press conference that some 600 wells are already in operation and that most are between two and 10 kilometers from the residents’ homes. “These places are also fields for grazing,” he said. “It’s surprising that the nation and the province should open the doors to a company that is known on a global level for contamination and extortion.” (Rio Negro, Argentina, July 11)

Correction: This item originally said Chevron and YPF would be drilling for natural gas; they are drilling for oil in shale deposits.

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 14.

See our last post on the crimes of Chevron.